I've worked in many facilities and can tell you that the hospitals that looked the best were the ones in which the facilities team and the environmental services (ES) team worked hand in hand. It's a unique partnership that produces dynamic results. Unfortunately, many health care facilities still function using a silo mentality. Today's facilities lose when that old way of thinking dominates.

As an ES leader, there are many ways that I can leverage my staff and our abilities to help the facilities director. The facilities director has the capability of tapping into a resource that is like unharnessed energy — it's out there, he or she just has to take advantage of it. To do so, the facilities director has to discard some old habits and look at the operations differently. Doing so will allow him or her to see the opportunity instead of what has always been.

The ES team has eyes everywhere. We actually see every patient room every day. We see every room in the emergency center every day. We are in nearly every hallway every day. From the front-line staff to the leadership, we are constantly looking and inspecting. But, we often look with our blinders on and only see dust and dirt. By partnering with facilities, we can easily change our processes. We are the eyes that see when an exit sign light is out, when a trash chute door isn't closing properly or when three lights have burned out in a patient room. Facilities leaders don't have the staff to find those things. But ES departments do it every day and we're here to help.

I encourage facilities directors to meet with ES leadership. Make sure their leaders know the ES leaders. If a patient complains about his or her sink, it certainly will be escalated. But what if the facilities leader were notified by a housekeeper before the patient could even say anything? How much quicker and more customer-focused would that be? Fewer complaints make for a better customer experience.

When facilities directors are charged with selecting the materials for new lobby chairs or choosing a new floor type in another area, how will they do it? Are they familiar with the new products and what they offer? How much labor will be involved to clean the area once it is completed? How hard will it be to maintain? Reaching out and working with ES leadership can help to ensure that the right materials are selected for the best outcomes. Facilities leaders know all about installation procedures, but the ES department's processes of upkeep will help newly selected materials retain their new look.

It's time to shift our thinking. We need to move beyond the old ways into a more progressive and collaborative future. We need it now more than ever. It may be different from what we are used to, and it may feel a little awkward at first, but the benefits far outweigh anything that fear of change may place in front of us.

It's time to look to the future and what can be accomplished. We make a great team. We just have to decide to be one!

By Colby C. Morris, CHESP, assistant director of facilities operations, environmental services, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston.

AHE insight

Valuable resources available

AHE represents, defines and advances the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities. Here are a few of the resources that AHE offers.

Recommended Practice Series: Environmental Services Equipment and Supplies. The equipment and supplies covered in this booklet are essential, discrete components of safe, efficient and productive environmental services (ES) operations. For more information, go to www.ahe.org/ahe/learn/tools_and_resources/publications.shtml.

Expanding Your Influence in Today's Healthcare Environment. What skills must you develop to expand your influence and position ES as a department to be reckoned with? This prerecorded webinar explores effective communication skills and how emotional intelligence can be leveraged to influence others. To access it, log on to www.ahe.org/education.

AHE Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program. AHE has launched a new certificate program to acknowledge the ongoing and outstanding environment and ecological sustainability efforts of ES departments. For more information on the program, go to www.ahe.org/ahe/lead/environmental_sustainability_certificate_program.shtml.